Commerce Committee Keeps Eye on ICANN

Although the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has backed off its plan to charge $1 ($US) for every domain name registered, Rep. Thomas Bliley (R-Virginia) continues to probe the group’s finances and activities.

Bliley is Chairman of the House Commerce Committee and a representative from a state that houses several Internet businesses. One of them, Network Solutions Inc. (NSI), has battled with ICANN over the U.S. government mandated privatization of the domain name registration system.

Last week, in a letter to ICANN Chairwoman Esther Dyson, Bliley blasted the group for its financial woes and again complained about ICANN’s relations with the Democratic Clinton administration. Bliley’s letter exhibits the highly politicized manner in which ICANN has been regarded since the Department of Commerce established it last fall. It was designed to handle domain name registrations for common suffixes .com, .net and .org.

As previously reported, Bliley and other members of the Republican-led Congress have repeatedly questioned the Department of Commerce’s actions during the gradual process of authorizing private companies to register new domains.

Steps Toward Privatization

Bliley says he does not oppose the move toward privatization, just how it is being accomplished. “The Committee has been following closely the evolution of the DNS and has supported the efforts to privatize the management of this essential element of the Internet,” he told Dyson. “Notwithstanding my own views regarding ICANN’s previous attempt to generate revenue, I am troubled that an organization created for the express purpose of assuming essential management functions of the DNS finds itself in such a critical funding situation.”

Recently, ICANN President Mike Roberts told the Commerce Committee that the company is about $800,000 in debt. According to Bliley’s letter, the committee is particularly concerned about an e-mail Roberts sent to several Internet companies last month, which spelled out how dire that situation is. “Reality suggests that unless there is an immediate infusion of $500[,000] to $1[,000,000], there won’t be a functioning ICANN by the end of August,” Roberts wrote.

Corporate Funding

Bliley also questions the propriety of ICANN working with members of the White House staff to try to raise corporate donations to keep ICANN operating. “In light of the severity of ICANN’s financial condition, as described above, I am interested in learning more about ICANN’s present and projected financial status. I also wish to obtain more information regarding any efforts undertaken by employees within the Executive branch with respect to ICANN’s financial condition or otherwise,” Bliley told Dyson.

Bliley has asked Dyson to provide detailed information and copies of all records related to ICANN’s efforts to obtain funding for its operations, including who ICANN staffers have talked to within the Clinton administration and the private sector. Bliley wants answers by September 2nd.

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